What’s in a Name?

babygirlsnamesheartI don’t know why, but I don’t have a nickname. Names and nicknames are said to have a powerful influence on our lives. I’m not really talking about social media  nicknames or even CB radio handles, as we used to call them, names like “Motor-Mouth” and “Roadrunner.” I’m talking about the colorful nicknames given by friends or family because they seem to describe looks or personality, names like Sparky, Curly, Stubby, or Buzz. These nicknames have more individuality than real names, which often come from literature, favorite movie actors, or rich relatives whom parents wanted to flatter.

Now some purists will tell you such names are not nicknames at all but “pet names.” Nicknames, they say, are those that are a shortened version of a real name or derived from the original given name. This sort of nickname makes sense in a way. Calling a person Beth instead of Elizabeth is much quicker and easier than saying the entire name. I’ve never quite figured out some nicknames, though. Bob for Robert or Rita for Margaret makes a little bit of sense, but Dick for Richard makes none at all.

Some families seem to be more into the tradition of nicknames or “pet names”than others are. My late husband’s family always favored nicknames. His name was “Dumps” until he was almost grown. That was a shortening of the pet name “Dumpling” given him as a baby His brother was Bubba. His sister, whose real name, Florene, could have been easily shortened, was instead called Sis. My husband’s older brother, Gerald, never became Jerry, though – probably because he was so big and mean that nobody dared give him a nickname.

Come to think of it, what sort of nickname could be given to shorten a name like Sheila? I looked on several lists of nicknames to see what I could find, but the only suggestion was Cecilia. That is not a nickname at all but simply another form of the same name. So much for that idea.

The trend nowadays is just to name the child what you are going to call them. My mom was ahead of her time as she named my sister Patty instead of Patricia. When Patty was a child, she always got mad if anyone shortened her name to Pat. Now she likes to be called Pat and doesn’t want to be called Patty. Go figure.

baby_nameYou must be careful about what you call your kids as childhood nicknames can stick. If the trend to name kids what you call them continues, there will be a lot of kids called “Be Quite,” “Go Play,” and “Don’t Spill It.”

Some nicknames seemed to be simply a way to keep from getting two people in the family with the same name mixed up, like Junior when a son is named after dad. At my house we had two Davids, Big David and Little David. When Little David became bigger than Big David, Big David had to become Dave. Now Little David is called Dave. It all gets very confusing.

Some people say that when they were a kid and their mother called them by their real name instead of their nickname, they knew that they were in trouble. “Come here, James.” instead of “Come here, Jimmy.” meant serious stuff was brewing. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a nickname. I was always in trouble.

At least social media has given us a chance to recycle those forgotten nicknames or to acquire one that we never had. I only wish that I could think of a good nickname for Sheila. One online friend who will go unnamed sometimes calls me “Shesh!” But, what sort of nickname is that? On the other hand, I suppose I’ve been called worse things.

Maybe I should just be happy to be who I am and not worry about being one of the few people in the world who never had a nickname.


What about you? Do you have a nickname? Do you like nicknames or think they are silly?

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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8 Responses to What’s in a Name?

  1. I have something like 20 odd nicknames, and depending on the name will depend on how old I was when I met the person.

    My son has a fairly unusual name, but I like it because it can be shortened to a more usual name. Although he will always be monkey to me

    Liked by 1 person

  2. energywriter says:

    Great piece about something that’s always puzzled me. I was Shari until I was 30, then decided I should use my “grown up” name. Now I’m sort of wishing for Shari again, but feel a bit odd about asking people to change what they call me, at this age. My former father-in-law was always called Smut, even in his obit. No one knew him by his actual name.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. geezer94 says:

    Thank you for my sunday afternoon smile …

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicknames were rampant when I was in grade school. I would love to see Legs and Booper again to see what they’ve grown into. Legs is easily explained but I have no idea about Booper.

    Liked by 1 person

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